US journalist facing jail term for refusing to testify in CIA officer’s trial

James RisenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A leading American journalist is facing a possible jail term after the United States Supreme Court refused to consider his appeal against testifying at the trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency officer. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, who worked for the CIA from 1993 until 2002, was arrested in early 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was charged with leaking classified information about Operation MERLIN, a botched CIA covert operation targeting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The operation was publicly revealed for the first time in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. In chapter 9 of the book, Risen details a bungled operation by the CIA’s Iran Task Force to pass to the Iranians a series of faulty nuclear bomb design documents. Risen alleges that the CIA operation backlashed and may actually have helped the Iranian nuclear weapons program, as Iranian nuclear engineers would have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws”. Risen was summoned to testify in Sterling’s trial, but refused, arguing that having to identify the source of his allegation about Operation MERLIN would infringe on press freedom. On the other side of the argument, the United States government claimed that the freedom of the press does not permit journalists “to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources”. Risen filed a case in a Virginia court, arguing that he should not be forced to comply with the subpoena issued to him to testify at Sterling’s trial. After the court upheld the subpoena, Risen’s legal team filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. But the Court has now refused to hear the case, which means that Risen will have to testify in Sterling’s trial or face a possible jail sentence. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #739

The US Department of DefenseBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US Supreme Court to consider case on secret wiretapping. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider blocking a constitutional challenge to the government’s secret wiretapping of international phone calls and emails. At issue is whether Americans who have regular dealings with overseas clients and co-workers can sue to challenge the sweep of this surveillance if they have a “reasonable fear” their calls will be monitored. The case, to be heard in the fall, will put a spotlight on a secret surveillance program that won congressional approval in the last year of President George W. Bush’s presidency.
►►Analysis: Why is CIA applauding DoD’s intel grab? Last month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the creation of a new US espionage agency: the Defense Clandestine Service, or DCS. The new agency is expected to expand the Pentagon’s espionage personnel by several hundred over the next few years, while reportedly leaving budgets largely unchanged. The news nonetheless surprised some observers in Washington because the move appeared, at least initially, to be a direct challenge to the Central Intelligence Agency, whose National Clandestine Service leads the country’s spy work overseas. Then came a second surprise: former CIA officers and other intelligence experts started applauding. The question is why.
►►FBI forms secretive online surveillance unit. On May 22, CNet’s Declan McCullagh revealed that the FBI had quietly formed a new Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC), tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications. According to McCullagh, DCAC’s goal is “to invent technology that will […] more readily eavesdrop on Internet and wireless communications”. Read more of this post

CIA hid terrorism prisoners from US Supreme Court

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency purposefully concealed at least four terrorism detainees from the US legal system, including the Supreme Court, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. The news agency has revealed that the CIA secretly transported the four to Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp on Cuba in 2003, two years before it publicly admitted their capture. It then secretly transferred them again to other sites in its black site prison network in various countries around the world, just three months before their prolonged stay at Guantánamo would entitle them to legal representation. While at Guantánamo, the four prisoners, Abd al-Nashiri, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, were kept at a facility known as ‘Strawberry Fields’, which is detached from the main prison site at the bay. By hiding the four, the Bush Administration managed to keep them under CIA custody while denying them legal representation for two years longer than allowed by US law. It also concealed their detention from national and international human rights monitoring bodies and from the US justice system, including the Supreme Court. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0008

  • Moderate Virginia Republican is Obama’s leading cybersecurity czar. Time magazine identifies Tom Davis as a leading candidate for the newly created position, citing “sources familiar with the White House’s deliberations on the subject”. Davis served in the House of Representatives for seven terms before retiring last fall. But Ryan Singel, of Wired, points out that Davis is “no friend of privacy”. While in the House of Representatives, “Davis voted repeatedly to expand the government’s internet wiretapping powers, and helped author the now-troubled national identification law known as REAL ID”, reminds Singel.
  • New Zealand spooks spied on high school students. Last February, intelNews reported on revelations that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) has been keeping a file on an elected Green Party parliament Member, Keith Locke, since he was 11 years old. New information shows that NZSIS has been monitoring two other Green parliamentarians, Sue Bradford and Catherine Delahunty, since they were in high school. Moreover, their files remained active until 1999 and 2002, respectively. 
  • US Supreme Court refuses Plame CIA case. The Court declined to take up the case of Valerie Plame, a former CIA agent, who sought compensation after she was publicly revealed to be a secret operative. Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, wanted to sue several Bush administration officials, including former vice president Dick Cheney, over the 2003 revelation. 
  • US Homeland Security said to kill domestic spy satellite plan. A senior Homeland Security official has said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has decided to kill a controversial Bush administration plan to use satellites for domestic surveillance in the US. The plan first surfaced in 2007, but it has been delayed due to concerns by privacy and civil liberties advocates that it would intrude on the lives of Americans. 
  • US National Security Advisor to visit India. Jim Jones will visit New Delhi at the request of President Obama, in order “to further deepen and strengthen our key bilateral partnership with India” says the White House. He will also be visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
  • Researcher unearths declassified documents on NSA’s history. The documents, obtained by Matthew M. Aid for his new book, The Secret Sentry, confirm that prior to the launch of the first spy satellites into orbit by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in the early 1960s, the Signals Intelligence collected by the National Security Agency and its predecessor organizations was virtually the only viable means of gathering intelligence information about what was going on inside the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and other communist nations.  However, the NSA and its foreign partners could collect bits and pieces of huge numbers of low-level, unencoded, plaintext messages.